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How to plan a wedding: tips from an events planner who organised her own big day

Posted by
Megan Murray
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Stressed about how to plan your wedding? Well, there’s no one that gives better advice than a professional events organiser. We asked Claire Berry founder of Perfect Cartel, and bride-to-be, for her top tips.

There are certain parts of the whole getting married process which are gleefully celebrated. A ring shot engagement picture, for example, is now a commonplace staple for many social media users, while the actual big day itself is – obviously documented from start to finish, usually in the rosiest light – is often lauded as the best day of the couple’s life.

But what about everything that happens in that middle bit? Wedding planning is generally less showcased – and why, you might ask? Well, because it’s bloody stressful. Coming up with a concept, working with suppliers, finding the time to visit venues, keeping on top of the budget; it’s not unusual for brides to liken their ‘wedmin’ to having another job. 

If you’ve felt the cold, hard sting of wedding planning stress yourself, you’ll know that there’s nothing brides are more desperate for than insider tips on how to make the day (and preceding months) go smoothly. 

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Enter, Claire Berry. As the founder of creative event design and brand experience agency Perfect Cartel, Berry has worked on events for clients such as NARS, YSL, Chanel, Soho House and Universal Music, amassing a lot of experience in the events and hospitality industry. 

In other words, she knows a thing or too about pulling off a fabulous, A-list worthy event. So, when Berry got engaged herself, we can only imagine how high the bar was for her own special event. 

But although she’s a professional, running her own business and caring for her six-month old child has meant that planning a three-day wedding in Italy isn’t exactly, shall we say, easy. From supplier mix-ups and venue cancellations (all of which she’s juggled from across Europe), Berry has learned a lot while preparing for her wedding in August, and we were only too happy to find out exactly what.

Here, Berry has shared seven crucial lessons she’s learned while planning her wedding.

Wedding
Planning your wedding day? Take note of these top tips.

Create a ‘have done’ list

“Instead of having ‘to do’ lists I started ‘have done’ lists which are much more helpful for those times when things get a little overwhelming. They really help to see just how much you have achieved and give a real sense of comfort in the process; much more positive and reassuring than looking at what’s still to do.

“With that in mind, I’m working backwards from our day with a critical path, setting deadlines and sign-off dates as well as scheduling regular updates from my planning team and checking in on our collaborative Dropbox account.”

Stick with one planning tool

“I cannot stress enough how Google documents are the only way to go! These ensure that you and anyone contributing to planning is always working to the latest version of table lists, dietary requirements, schedules etc. Try to stick to one spreadsheet but with multiple tabs.”

Imagine your guest’s journey to plan the itinerary for the day

“Something I am focusing on now that the wedding is just seven months away is the guest journey. So many will have travelled so far and spent a lot getting to Italy and I think it’s important with any wedding, but especially a destination wedding, that the guests are spoilt. I’m thinking a lot about how the day will play out for them; what they’ll see when they arrive at the venue, their emotions as they move from space to space, the smells, the atmosphere and everything in between. I want them to have just as good a time as us.”

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Work with locals if you’re having a destination wedding

“If you’re also having a destination wedding, I strongly suggest investing in working with a local fixer – or at least checking in with someone who speaks the language. And bear in mind that Mediterranean countries can shut for at least six weeks in the summer so agree communication with them over this time in advance. Having calls and emails go unanswered for weeks can be worrying and frustrating. Also, Monzo debit cards don’t charge fees abroad when billed in local currency which is a godsend for local payments. They are also a great way to keep track of spending if you aren’t going abroad.”

Think about the implications of financial help

“Don’t accept money from anyone for the wedding if you don’t want them to have a say in the proceedings! Whilst it may prove helpful, if it’s going to cause stress and tension and you end up with elements that you didn’t want, then it’s not worth it. Additionally, when it comes to budget, add a 5% contingency onto your overall budget for unforeseen ‘extras’. This could be for deliveries, breakages, signage. If it doesn’t get used, consider it savings. Less exciting, but critical, is to allow budget to pay for the back-up generator. Do not take the chance that you will not need it!”

Wedding
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Work with sustainable suppliers

“Sustainability is still a buzz word in the world of weddings and events and it’s very much at the forefront of my mind. We’re using ‘zero kilometre’ catering, reusing or repurposing our styling elements, local florals and incorporating dried or paper flowers, water dispensers and using as little single-use plastic as possible. Italians are also great recyclers! It just takes a little bit of thought and some great suppliers so carefully check out their credentials if this is important to you.”

Read T&Cs meticulously

“Read your supplier and venue terms and conditions and cancellation polices carefully! There can be many costs hidden in the fine print – cleaning, rubbish removal, security charges, charges for over-running curfew and more. I was caught out by not taking this advice when our Masseria (Italian-style farmhouse) was sold and they cancelled our booking, meaning we had to start from scratch. It’s heart-breaking when you think you’ve found THE venue but also expensive and time consuming to look for an alternative. Luckily, just a couple of weeks ago, we flew back out to Italy and have now found something equally wonderful. Needless to say, even as an event planner used to an 11th hour crisis, it was pretty stressful!”

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Images: Unsplash - Eliza Szablinska / Lanty / Samantha Gades 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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